What are some known Guest Scams?

Anthony608
Level 10
Silver Spring, MD

What are some known Guest Scams?

I have been hosting for two years now and have seen my share of shady and suspicious guests.  I am wondering what actual scams other hosts have seen committed by potential guests.

 

The most serious scam I ever saw was what I believed to be a key-copying scam.  A man in Boston booked my room, then on the first night of the reservation, an unknown woman came to the residence and was knocking on the door, apparently unaware that the door had a keycode entry. She did not have any of the check-in instructions and had only been sent on her phone a screenshot of the home’s address. Once in the residence, the woman began asking repeatedly to be given an actual key. After several minutes of explanations, she finally understood that there was no key but rather a keycode for the door which would expire at the end of the stay. This clearly upset her a bit and she became visible nervous. She then went outside and was on her cellphone for a minute before walking away towards the local bus stop. She did not return to the residence on the first night, but closed the door to the room and left the lights on as to give the appearance that someone was in the room. Upon checkout, the room was found to be undisturbed and it did not look like anyone had slept in the beds.

 

Another, more complicated scam, involved a guest who was trying to gather information about the property without actually booking.  Over the course of six months, I received  three pre-approval booking inquiries - they all said the same thing - mainly that a guest wanted to book the room for a large number of days, was "moving into an apartment" and needed the room right away. The first of these I agreed to, since I thought I had a good opportunity for a booking and there were no real warning signs. However, the pre-approvals would then expire, and then the guest began sending numerous messages through AirBNB asking for extensive details about the house. More messages followed, asking details about did I live alone in the house, who else would be there, and also they wanted the specific street address prior to booking so they could come and see the house before booking. When I explained this was against AirBNB policy, the messages suddenly stopped. Then, several weeks later - pre-approval request again, asking about the room, moving into an apartment, need it right away, etc, etc. An obvious script which was being repeated.

 

To a lesser degree, I have received numerous questionable messages about same day bookings.  Typically strange vague messages, speaking about emergencies and needing the room right away.  Of those I've approved,  20% of them never show up and of those that do about 30% don't stay the night.  Obviously something going on.

 

What scams have other hosts seen?

85 Replies 85
Laila141
Level 1
Vancouver, Canada

We just established a new property in Niagara Falls and also experiencing repeat first time users that are “working in Niagara” seeking long term rentals. They ask a lot of questions but don’t book. They repeatedly ask questions that are clearly available on property details and description. They are all of Chinese descent so I also assumed it’s a language issue. All young. Names include Chris, Dave, Tiance. They are also sharing their contact in messaging and prefer WhatsApp or texting. I changed my profile picture for now as I felt super uncomfortable about them learning too much about me. I’ve reported them to Airbnb however, I do wish Airbnb had a checklist like they do with house rules so new guest understand the rules and consequences of not following them.

Helen744
Level 10
Victoria, Australia

Anthony a scam is something that actually happens generally after booking. your first example sounds odd but may have been cleared up by speaking to the guest I suspect.If you allow short term bookings as in same night ,late and one night then you risk attracting those who use drugs or need a place for casual hookups or even prostitution or drig dealing , but they are bookings of convenience and possibly criminal activity but not scams. Scams by their  nature will involve you in hosting and consequent refunds. Most of the above can be avoided by communication with the guests ,asking questions , puting in house rules ,checking ids , checking previous reviews, putting in age restrictions , over 25 and all of the other hands on things hosts do .  every one willhave one or two ,some more subtle than other.   H

Robyn401
Level 2
Imperial Beach, CA

And the other scam is, though I’ve not experienced this with air bnn, is requiring an address for delivery..yeh.   Some years ago, someone stole our FedEx Account number - and since it was a pick up by Fed Ex with the account number written on the FedEx packet, it was easy to figure out who abused our trust with the account number.  It was linked to our credit card. But then, Fed Ex would not cancel our account number even though we proved over and over that we were not sending FedEx to deliver packages to a vacant office block!! Similarly, we had sold our house, and as we were backing out the driveway with our last truck load of possessions, a hand-delivery was made to our doorway.  I sat in the truck for a while to ponder if that might be the new buyer’s document (it was a document).  We had a very short street and knew all vehicles, but there was an odd one parked a little down the block and someone was sitting in the driver’s seat.  Our truck was out of view but I did see this guy walk up our driveway.  I jumped out and ran back to the house and asked what he was doing, and he said he had the wrong address.  I took the envelope that had been delivered.  It was a CHASE credit card in the name of not the new owner, nor us.  I called CHASE, and reported it, who said that this’person’ was verified as being an occupant there. That was never the case, nor anywhere in our neighborhood.  It was fraud.   The applicant/card owner had needed an address, and what better address to use than of a house that was sold (public record), or..say..a longer term rental on air bnb.

Robyn401
Level 2
Imperial Beach, CA

Yes, I’ve had many of those.  No history with AirBnB yet wanting to book an expensive property for months rather than monthly.  No photo and just joined.  And always Chinese.

 

But I’ve also had at least 4 who book, then cancel straight away.  So I wonder if this is a money washing thing.  If it is booked with a pre-paid credit card, there is no room to go back and recover damages from the guest. And money goes off and on  the card - from Chinese to US dollars - within 24 hrs.

 

I had one married couple, new to Air bnb, school teachers (or so they said), who said they had a young child for which our property (they said) was perfect,  who booked and cancelled within 24 hrs BECAUSE they could not get vacation time together.  Highly suspicious given that their vacation time is set in stone.

 

I don’t want to do instant book because I’ve been stuck with that before when I had a private booking (friend needing accommod) and could not get to the air bnb calendar in time to block out those dates.  Penalty to me.  Won’t do that again.  So now I only get enquiries from those who, for the most part,  just now joined air bnb.

 

Air BNB needs to screen these people better.  Just one ID is insuffient. What ID?. Address verified?  Last year these false applications were so bad that I removed the listing entirely for this property for most of the year, and then when those applications started up again, as described above, I had to remove the listing again or be accused by AirBnB of not responding.  I spent more time fending the applicants off or requesting further info and then having to justify that request, than I had time to attend to.

 

 

Anne1057
Level 3
St. John's, Canada

Thanks Robyn, This was very helpful.

 

I have just had a request to book for 4 months from someone named 尤, which translates to "you".  No reviews, no profile info or picture. I attempted to report but the report interface does not have an option for this. Just 3 choices having to do with requests to do business outside of airbnb.

 

I agree with everything you have said about Airbnb improving its screening. What's the point of allowing hosts to specify that they will only book guests with positive reviews, profile photos and profile information if they then send you requests from guests who don't meet any of those requirements? Then you compromise your host status by refusing them. It's very frustrating.

I also received the same message from the same user.  Thanks for sharing

Jeff-and-Katie0
Level 1
Corrales, NM

We had the same request, but had the name of “later”

Hi! Very interesting and quite scary! Thanks for sharing that. I have recently joined as a host and have received two or three very odd inquiry’s. One of them was Chinese and at first I thought it may be a language barrier, but then they asked to communicate outside Airbnb which automatically I realized it was a scam. One odd one I just got was someone with a random name asking if they may stay long term (3-6 months) and when I asked how many people they said with their assistant and secretary who are a couple ( also strange especially since assistant and secretary are also pretty much the same thing). Then when they again asked to text outside the app I said no. What are these people gaining from doing this is my question? Also if I had accepted the pre approval, would that money been refundable for them had they been actual scammers? Thanks !

Sasha232
Level 1
West Kelowna, Canada

I just experienced the same thing for the first time! Had a person named Chen with no reviews and new to air bnb inquire asking if my house was available for 20 days in December. Which it clearly is, they can see that. I replied and said yes it is let me know if you have any questions! He then said “hi madam landlord, i would like to stay in your house for 20 days is that okay?” 
i again said yes, we would love to host you. 
He then replied with “What's the surrounding environment like? I like to be quiet, especially at night. I sometimes read books at home. Do you like reading?” 

At the time i thought maybe he’s elderly and a language barrier! So i let him know it’s a quiet property. Then he kept trying to get more info and i thought he was wanting to know the layout of the house but now i believe he was getting at wanting to know where the address was. He then starting asking when air bnb would charge his account and then said “

Hi, sorry, I have something to do right now. Do I leave my contact details so I can better communicate with you? and added a phone number. It was then flagged by air bnb as suspicious. 

Knew it was a weird interaction  from the very beginning! 

Deb3541
Level 2
Franklin, NH

Sasha - I also had the same Chen contact me, same exact text.  Besides asking for a long stay, that bit about asking me about reading triggered caution, and then "I'm sorry, have something to do," spelling out the number - exactly the same.  I also flagged it to airbnb, but the account doesn't seem to have been taken down yet (another who had contacted me and was weird, airbnb removed from airbnb, and their messages are no longer visible).

 

I came to this page to se if anyone knew what do the scammers GAIN by doing this?  Today I received a month-long inquiry asking if I was truly owner occupied, which made me wonder if they were looking for a home to loot or squat in.

Brian2515
Level 1
Santa Rosa, CA

We are new hosts and got several bookings from experienced high-rated AirBnB guests for the holidays, but just today got a strange request for 20days (Jan10-30) for 4 people from a new AirBnB user with no history, though AirBnB says they are “verified” by one ID. Says Speaks Mandarin and English, based in NY, NY. 
first message was “…will your sweet house accept my scheduled date?” And second was 'It's a quiet place around your house, especially at night, I like watching the news and reading at home'

Weird. We’ll see what happens..no booking yet.

Rachel1472
Level 2
Forest, VA

We have someone right now who says he's from Iceland doing the same thing.  Same question.  What is the scam though?  

Tina9112
Level 2
Wattsburg, PA

Rachel - I got him today fashion designer with 2 models & translator. Earlier today from NYC also w translator &

assistant. Both new users & wants to text. 

Debra589
Level 2
Byhalia, MS

I have had the same converstion with Chen!!! Looks like the same dates too. Dec 21-Jan 20. He said 20 days and called me madam landlord. I asked him why he was coming to town for so long and he said work. So I asked more questions and he said a Czech company from New York. I declined the request saying I preferred shorter stays from guests with previous reviews and he keeps sending the inquiry over and over. It looks like you’re in Canada? I’m in Mississippi. So he can’t really be looking for places in both areas at the same time. Can’t figure out how to report bc it only gives a few options. 

Jordana25
Level 2
Cincinnati, OH

Had the exact same experience today, and wondering the same thing. What IS the scam?

Kirstin38
Level 2
Central City, NE

Here is a request that I received:

 

 
Nov 1, 2022
Message from Airbnb Service
Inquiry sent · 1 guest, Dec 1 - Dec 31

 

Garland10:46 AM
I have a 6 month work contract starting 12-1-22
Will this work?
 

 

Kirstin10:48 AM
Hi, Garland -

Thank you for reaching out to us and for considering our Airbnb. We love Central City and we’re happy you’ll get an opportunity to stay here. Will you be working in Central City?
 
How did you hear about us, Garland?
 
Message from Airbnb Service
Pre-approval sent · 1 guest, Dec 1 - Dec 31

 

Garland4:10 PM
Air BNB
 

 

Kirstin5:01 PM
Have you ever used AirBNB before?
Robyn401
Level 2
Imperial Beach, CA

Hi Kirstin. This is exactly the same that I get.  It seems like it could be a group sending out mass emails to properties on air bnb.  Only happens on the California property, though, which make me suspect the server for this side of the country is held off shore.

Kirstin38
Level 2
Central City, NE

I'm using this recent inquiry as an example.   If you have a 6 month work contract and it starts a month from today, wouldn't you be very quick to find and book a place?  I have learned not to jump with excitement when someone asks for a long term stay.  I've also learned to ask questions that make me uncomfortable.  I don't want to be too inquisitive but I also don't want to get stuck with a person who thinks they can move in, pay a minimal amount and then they decide to extend their stay and they don't end up paying.   

 

We had someone who told us they were closing on a home and were staying with us until the closing.  The closing was moved and they asked to extend their stay.  I told them to go in and request the new dates.  They said that the Airbnb app stopped working.  Then, I called Airbnb and found that the people were no longer accepted.  Their credit cards were not going through.  I told them they needed to leave and they asked if they could pay me when their first paycheck came through.  It was very messy.  I was notified by the police that the Airbnb folks parked illegally and when they ran their plates that they had warrants in Florida and Alabama.  Very scary to then walk over and ask them to gather their belongings and leave.

 

The experience did make me inquire more throughly when someone requests a longer stay.  If they have zero reviews then I get even more inquisitive on what their purpose is in staying in our area.

Suzanne923
Level 2
Folsom, CA

I have a 35 day guest that just moved in two days ago.

6 positive reviews.

Her age says 52 on the platform, but she said 56.

curious how Air does their screening.

long story short, now I have a woman who has told me that she is bipolar, going through a divorce, her dog has bitten her, and she smokes vapes & brought about 25 trash bags of clothes into my unit for 35 days. She said her ex is crazy.

I feel sick to my stomach- I live in the main house with two young boys and my boyfriend.

I am very concerned!!!! Advice?

she has been very sweet, but texts a lot. Might be my fault for trying to be friendly & understanding of a woman going through a divorce- I learned the rest after she moved in.

my gut says I need to have her move out.

how do I do this?

worst timing ever, you should never feel unsafe in your own home!

please help!

Thank you

Valerie-A26
Level 2
San Antonio, TX

Airbnb needs to get a handle on this and get software to sift these out before they even hit us.

Explore Resource Center articles

Making your home ready for guests
Tips from Airbnb plus hosts: How to add thoughtful touches
Supporting guests during their stay